Government FOIA Flouting Responsible for One Bump Stock ‘Conspiracy Theory’

Same as the old boss? AG Barr could order this cleared up in a matter of seconds – if he wanted to. (The United States Department of Justice/Facebook)

U.S.A. – -( “We have conducted a search for ‘any records documenting the use of a bump fire-type stock used during the commission of any crime to date,’ and found no responsive records,” Department of Justice lawyer and Disclosure Division Deputy Director Peter J. Chisolm told attorney Stephen Stamboulieh May 1. He was responding to a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of firearms designer, frequent expert witness, and president of Historic Arms, LLC, Len Savage. “This is not a denial of information, rather it is to inform you that no records were found based on a search of our Criminal Enforcement System of Records.”

It’s tempting to say the DOJ can’t find records of such devices being used in crimes, and that is unproven at this point, but Chisolm is being cute here rather than responsive. Note his selective use of quotation marks and then look at Stamboulieh’s FOIA request. Chisolm is parroting back word in quotes, meaning, of course, a system search for that exact phrase will come up empty. That’s a deliberate in-your-face and it remains to be seen if a federal judge will be amused.

Similarly, FBI being asked the same question resulted in a response that essentially said they don’t have that information and wouldn’t have to tell anyone if they did. It’s a further demonstration of a contemptuous and arrogant attitude we have been subjected to before, with government lawyers disparaging efforts seeking information to which Americans are entitled as “a tangled web of connections between a small cadre of firearms activists and their efforts to recover fees through largely unsuccessful FOIA litigation.”

It’s fair to ask how we got to the point where this is even a question: Doesn’t everyone “know” based on media reports that bump stocks were used in the LasVegas killings? It would seem there is no question, at least within “official” media.

So why question it?

Probably because in response to another FOIA Stamboulieh was involved in, ATF included a Powerpoint presentation with a startling admission:

“There are no external visual indicators (i.e. automatic sear pin hole) that the weapons have been converted into machineguns,” the presentation declared. “However, on-scene ATF personnel were not allowed [emphasis in orginal] to physically examine the interior of the weapons for machinegun fire-control components or known  machinegun conversion devices such as Drop-In-Auto Sears, Lightning Links, etc.”

But that says “on-scene” some have pointed out. What about afterward?

That, among other things, is what the government is being coy about. To date, there has been no report that a technical examination by ATF has ever taken place. Why?

And who has authority to tell ATF it’s not allowed to examine firearms? What would you find if you pulled that thread, and why is no one who can mandate answers doing it?

Does it matter? Don’t we know several of the firearms recovered were found with bump stocks attached? What is it I’m trying to imply here?

I’m not trying to imply anything. I’m merely repeating the government’s words. If anyone infers more to it, that could quickly be cleared up if DOJ wanted to give some straight answers and not play games with FOIAs.  Especially since they’ve given us more reasons to scratch our heads.

This ATF FOIA production includes several problematic admissions  in addition to ATF not being “allowed” to examine recovered weapons:

Pg. 34:

Pg. 36:

Pg. 49:

“ATF did not disclose that they had not examined the firearms prior to promulgating the rule,” Savage has noted. “And now that the comment period is closed … that information can not be used in a court challenge because it was not submitted prior to the closing of comments.

“DOJ is manipulating the Administrative Procedures Act to make sure that information will NOT be used to shoot down the rule,” Savage concludes. “Does ATF prosecute its firearms cases like it promulgates rules, without ever looking at the evidence? ATF is currently attempting to criminalize an industry and a large swath of the population and NEVER looked at any evidence? They claim they were ‘not allowed’? By whom?”

For now, it looks like some in the judiciary are buying into the legal contortions.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney L. Friedrich, nominated to the court by President Donald Trump, ruled against motions for a preliminary injunction to find for the administration in the cases of Guedes, et al., v. ATF and Codrea, et al. v. William P. Barr. Of specific relevance, without citing evidence she states bump stocks were “used” and further asserted:

“The Las Vegas attack served as the impetus for ATF’s decision to reconsider its legal interpretation of ‘machinegun,’ but it did not provide a factual basis for the rule.”

In other words, whether the excuse for banning bump stock-type devices was true or not, what happened in Vegas was irrelevant? Yet she insists ATF had “good cause” for the rule?

If the level of scrutiny ever enters into the picture, it would help to know if there is a compelling government interest and the ban is narrowly tailored to achieve that result, or if a lesser standard applies. Like a scapegoat is needed…

As it stands now, much of the noise – and ugly noise at that – has been leveled not at the government, but at those raising questions about its conduct and its lack of candor.  There is a certain class of bloviating forum-dweller that exists to be anonymously obnoxious, making fair the question “Why are some gun owners defending government stonewalling and misrepresenting those questioning it as conspiracy theorists?”

Who wouldn’t want to know the truth about something that’s been used as “justification” to subvert property rights and choices, and done so in a way that lends itself to further infringements against gun owners? Especially if/when Democrats retake the White House and argue “Trump did it” when they order new and expanded bans?

As Stamboulieh has tried his best to make clear:

“Just for the record, I have never said that the rifles used weren’t equipped with bump stocks and not machineguns. I’m simply saying that there IS proof one way or the other, and we should have it. It is really a simple request and the way they are going about fighting it and ignoring it is simply bizarre.”

No doubt there are plenty of conspiracy theories about the Las Vegas murders but any wild speculations arising out of this are of the government’s making.

About David Codrea:David Codrea

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. He blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” is a regularly featured contributor to Firearms News, and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.